Choreography. Dance-music from Louis XIV’s Court with Concerto Copenhagen
Last Sunday I went to the beautiful Garrison Church where my favourite orchestra Concerto Copenhagen do most of their concerts when in town.
The Garrison Church, Copenhagen.
This Sunday the orchestra was conducted by the British harpist Andrew Lawrence-King in a programme of French dance-music from Louis XIV’s court. The concert was entitled Chorégraphie for the same reason and the hand-out told us that the 17th Century brought with it the first notation of choreography by the dancing-master Raoul Auger Feuillet. Feuillet based his dances on Jean Baptiste Lully’s music for which I have for some time harboured a quiet passion. In this concert Concerto Copenhagen played music by Lully and by a couple of fellows I had never even heard of before: Jean-Henry D’Angelbert and André Campra (more Rameau’s contemporary than Lully’s actually).
Andrew Lawrence-King had brought the guitar player and dancer Steven Player with him to perform some of the choreographies. So when it was required Steven Player would leave his guitar and step out from his place in the orchestra to use the nave as his dancing floor. I was absolutely taken with his appearance. This sternly looking middle aged man performed these pompous and thoroughly choreographed dances with the utmost seriousness and elegance. He opened by acting baroque conductor beating the time of a slow Pavane by banging a long staff against the floor with his back at the audience. Very simple but also effectively creating an atmosphere of ancient times and awe. Lully by the way died after banging such a staff against his foot which then infected and sent him to his Creator. Luckily Mr Player had no such accident this afternoon.
Steven Player then added a variety of hand-movements that seemed very much like the ornaments French baroque music is so famous for. Well actually I couldn’t say if this elegant icing is also noted down – as I am only familiar with the notation of music. But it probably is or at least there must have been some general rules for the dancer to refer to.
Steven Player did what seemed genuine and authentic and for one of the pieces he even managed to dance with his guitar either on his back or playing it!
In between the sets Andrew Lawrence-King told us little bits about the court, the music, the dance and the dancers. And besides from being an absolute virtuoso on his instrument (the harp) he also turned out to be an excellent story-teller.
As I already mentioned Steven Player looked very stern but for one of his last pieces he transformed into a perfect Jester tumbling around, begging with his hat in his hand. A performance worthy of a Commedia dell’Arte expert (as I understand he is). The music said that he was Harlequin but perhaps he was more of the Old Man Lully played with great success in his own ballet Air d’Apollon.
I must say I loved this concert! How wonderful to experience dance and music come together again. This music is so extremely well-suited for dancing (as it was written for it…) that it makes so much sense when performed with a dancer. This kind of multiple arts performances are rare in Copenhagen when it comes to ancient arts. How wonderful to have such wonderful performers as Andrew Lawrence-King and Steven Player to enrich us! I would have loved to witness the concert all over again and I hope they will come back soon!